How in the world did we get started? We know and understand that we fought the Revolutionary War and created this wonderful nation of ours with the Declaration of Independence. But, how did we know how to proceed from those tumultuous beginnings of war and a brave declaration? We needed a Constitution.
But, how many really know what our Constitution is and says? How many know what the amendments to the Constitution are? True, many people talk about “first amendment rights,” or perhaps “second amendment rights.” But, who knows about the rest of the amendments? Who even knows how many there are? How many understand or remember the purpose for our Constitution, as stated in the Preamble to it?
Our nation’s Constitution has weathered 227 years, and still remains strong. As a testament to its enduring effectiveness, although it has had a few amendments (hint: more than just the first ten, “Bill of Rights”), the Constitution remains effective and provides an enduring guide for decisions affecting our daily lives today. That speaks volumes to the founders of our nation.
In spite of the limited number of amendments to the original document, the U.S. Constitution is considered to be the longest surviving written constitution in the world. It does us all well to ensure we know what it says, so we know why it is so strong and is yet profitable in our decisions today. To help meet that goal, legislation was enacted to establish “Constitution Day”.
Constitution Day Law, Regulation, and Resources
Constitution Day is once more upon us. September 17th of each year is designated as Constitution Day. As required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (Pub. L. 108–447, signed into law on December 8, 2004), schools that receive Federal funding in a Federal fiscal year (e.g., Title IV Federal Student Aid) are required to “hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.’’ The regulation pertaining to this requirement is in the Federal Register dated May 24, 2005. In years, such as this one, when September 17 falls on a weekend, the school may elect to conduct its Constitution Day program the week preceding September 17, or the week following that actual date. (There is no additional flexibility authorized in the law or regulations.)
While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) does not stipulate what the requirements of such a program should include on Constitution Day, it does offer some resources in the Federal Register. Some of these may include such sources as the Library of Congress’ Constitution Day Teacher Resources Web page, as well as the National Archives for information on the Constitution, (for example a scanned copy of the Constitution), etc. Other resources that one may use could include the National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment! Web site to search for topics on the Constitution or Constitution Day. Additionally, organizations such as the National Constitution Center (a non-profit, non-partisan organization; it currently has a “countdown clock” to Constitution Day), the Center for Civic Education, or the National History Education Clearinghouse may yield further program ideas.
Constitution Day and Institutional Responsibility
It is important to note that this requirement is not one that ED delegates to the financial aid offices on campuses. (For example, at some institutions there are other departments on campus that also receive Federal funding.) It is an institutional responsibility. The educational program may be simple or sophisticated, depending upon your institution. For example, you may have a class on the Constitution, provide a link to the Constitution and have a quiz, or perhaps have the Constitution read aloud by faculty or staff and/or students in a common area on your campus. You may find a Webinar through one of the resources mentioned above that you choose to distribute a link to or use in a class that will contribute to meeting the requirements of a Constitution Day program. Some schools perhaps will utilize their faculty, their academic departments, or student services offices to coordinate or assist with an appropriate program. However, with the creativity that financial aid professionals are known for, it is certain that schools will be able to get some helpful thoughts from their own ingenious staff in financial aid on how to make this year’s Constitution Day program interesting and successful.
Whatever the resources used, undoubtedly you will find many that contribute toward your students’ understanding of our Constitution. And, the Constitution we have continues to stay fresh and applicable through the many changes and challenges our nation faces, year after year. Perhaps without knowing how successful they were in doing so, our founders formulated our Constitution as one that would endure many changes in the world over the years, decades, and, yes, centuries. Perhaps Constitution Day will help us all again realize how providential and fortuitous for us today, that the Constitution was designed as one that will viably persist throughout time.
 “The Constitutional Convention ~ Creating the Constitution” in The Charters of Freedom; The National Archives at https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/charters_of_freedom_6.html. Accessed on September 12, 2016.
 Some of these resources were developed by the U.S. Government or one of its departments or agencies (e.g., ED, Library of Congress, etc.) or developed under a grant from ED. Other sites are independently developed resources by various organizations. Researchers should review the information about the individual Web sites to determine the source of the information and/or source of funding for the Web resources, if interested. All hyperlinks to the sample resources were active and accurate as of the date of writing this FAME Regulatory Bulletin. The reference to a particular Web site or organization does not imply FAME’s endorsement of any non-U.S. Government site or resource. The resources are simply listed for an institution’s own research purposes.
This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered to be giving legal advice.